MAIDEN VOYAGE: Sue Valentine spent the early days of her marriage on a cargo ship full of goats.
MAIDEN VOYAGE: Sue Valentine spent the early days of her marriage on a cargo ship full of goats. Jonno Colfs

Warwick woman's African honeymoon nightmare

UNDER seige from warlords and terrorists, Sue Valentine knew she had to get herself and her newborn child out of Africa.

She told her husband she wanted out and he agreed, and after only a year away from Australia, the couple returned to the safety of the lucky country.

Mrs Valentine had met her future husband Robert on the Gold Coast in 1960.

After a short courtship the pair married.

"He was from Rhodesia, which is called Zimbabwe now," Mrs Valentine said.

"His mother sent him a letter and said she needed him back there to work the family farm.

"I was a nurse but didn't feel I so dedicated to it that I couldn't go with him."

In late 1960 the newly-wed couple boarded a cargo ship bound for Africa.

"The journey took seven long weeks," Mrs Valentine said.

"It's shouldn't have but there was a wharfie's strike in Melbourne, which held us up for a while.

"So much for getting back there quickly."

Mrs Valentine said in hindsight taking a cargo ship wasn't the ideal way to travel.

"It wasn't quick at all and I was the only woman on board the whole boat," she said.

"Add to that, the deck cargo was an enormous amount of feral goats, so going up there for fresh air was out of the question and impossible, you can just imagine the stench."

Mrs Valentine said the boat was owned by a Dutch company and had a Chinese crew.

"The cabin we had was lovely and the food was incredible," she said.

"We stopped at Mauritius on the way, they'd just been through a horrendous cyclone and the place was in a horrible mess."

Eventually the ship made it to South Africa and the pair travelled to Rhodesia to the family farm.

"They were tobacco and cattle farmers," she said.

"But the political climate in the country was just starting to turn.

"Terrorists were burning farms and poisoning cattle.

"The farmers in the area banded together to form a night patrol and that's when I'd had enough.

"So we got out."

After a working life spent in Brisbane, the pair retired to Warwick, where they've spent the past 20 years.

"It's a wonderful town, so full of warm and friendly people - a lovely place to retire."

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